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Turkish prime minister tells Syria's president to step down or risk tragic end

By the CNN Wire Staff
November 23, 2011 -- Updated 0138 GMT (0938 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Britain's foreign secretary says a U.N. resolution signals "united condemnation"
  • NEW: The U.N. resolution "strongly condemns" grave human rights violations by Syria
  • Turkey's prime minister: Syria's president risks the same fate as Moammar Gadhafi
  • The regime's crackdown has cost the lives of more than 3,500 people, the United Nations says

Istanbul (CNN) -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a stern warning to Syria's president Tuesday, saying that he risks facing the same fate as Libya's slain Moammar Gadhafi if he does not step down.

Erdogan condemned President Bashar al-Assad for remarks he reportedly made over the weekend that he would fight to the death to resist foreign forces, saying al-Assad is battling his own people.

"For God's sake, who are you fighting against?" Erdogan said in remarks to party members in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

"To fight against your own people till you die is not heroism; it is cowardice. If you want to see someone who has fought until death against his own people, just look at Nazi Germany, just look at Hitler, at Mussolini, at Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania.

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"If you cannot draw any lessons from these, then look at the Libyan leader who pointed weapons against his own people, used the same terms you use and who was killed just 32 days ago in a way that none of us wished.

"Without shedding more blood, just leave that seat."

Al-Assad has resisted mounting calls for his resignation in recent weeks as international outcry over his government's crackdown on pro-democracy protests has intensified.

Turkey, which shares a long border with Syria, has toughened its stance against its former ally and trading partner, as have Syria's Arab neighbors.

The Arab League last week suspended Syria from membership and demanded that the violence stop.

The humanitarian committee of the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday voted 122-13 to condemn the violence in Syria and express its support for the Arab League initiative. There were 41 abstentions.

It is the first resolution on Syria's crackdown to be approved at the United Nations. In October, Russia and China teamed up to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have condemned the Syrian response to the demonstrators and called for an immediate end to the government clampdown on the opposition.

The resolution passed Tuesday calls for an end to all violence and "strongly condemns the continued grave and systematic human rights violations by the Syrian authorities, such as arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and the persecution and killing of protesters and human rights defenders, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture and ill treatment of detainees, including children."

The violence continued Tuesday with 33 people killed across the country, according to the Local Coordination Committees, an activist group.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague welcomed the passage of the U.N. resolution, which was drafted by the United Kingdom, saying it sends "a signal of united condemnation of the Syrian regime's systematic human rights abuses."

He pointed to the support it received from regional players, including Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Turkey, and urged Syria to halt the violence.

Hague met with Syrian opposition figures in Britain on Monday, when he said London was "seeking to step up the international pressure on the Assad regime, a regime that has long since lost its legitimacy in the eyes of the wider world."

In an interview with Britain's The Sunday Times, al-Assad warned that any potential military intervention against his country would lead to "very dire" repercussions and that Syria "will not bow down" despite international threats of economic sanctions.

Al-Assad vowed he would personally fight and die to resist foreign forces, according to The Sunday Times.

Protesters in Syria are demanding al-Assad's ouster and democratic elections. He has been in power since 2000, following his father, Hafez, who ruled Syria for three decades.

Syria's government has said it is fighting armed terrorists, and maintains that the death toll is much lower than international observers and opposition groups say.

CNN's Yesim Comert and Mick Krever contributed to this report.

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